HARRISBURG, Pa. — Self-service kiosks could bring wine sales to 100 additional grocery stores in Pennsylvania.
But first the kiosks, provided by Simple Brands, Conshohocken, Pa., must undergo efficacy tests.
To purchase wine, a consumer would insert her driver's license into the kiosk for age and identity verification. The kiosk would then “read” the license barcode, and the picture on the license would be matched with a video image of the consumer standing before the machine, said Nick Hays, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.
“The match is confirmed by Liquor Control Board employees, represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, monitoring the transaction from a remote center,” Hays explained.
The kiosks would act as satellite Liquor Control Board stores, and would be monitored in real time.
Sobriety would be confirmed with a built-in breath sensor. It would provide an instant blood-alcohol reading and require no contact.
PLCB representatives could lock out purchases attempted by consumers who are intoxicated or underage. Payment could only be made with a credit card.
“The entire process will take less than 20 seconds,” said Hays.
The PLCB will test a prototype kiosk's control functions in the next month or so.
If those tests prove successful, a consumer pilot will be launched in several grocery stores. Locations for the pilot will likely be in the Harrisburg area so that the PLCB, which is based here, can quickly restock the kiosks and address maintenance issues, said Hays.
If those tests are successful, the kiosks would be placed in up to 100 grocery stores.
Pennsylvania is one of 19 states to have some measure of government control over alcohol distribution. The PLCB oversees wine and spirits sales through a network of 619 Wine & Spirits stores.
A change in law several years ago allowed the connection of brick-and-mortar Wine & Spirits stores to Pennsylvania supermarkets. But only 19 of these PLCB-run shops exist.
The program is designed to bring one-stop shopping to more residents, noted Hays.
“Kiosks will boost consumer convenience and allow the Liquor Control Board to better serve areas of the state where there is a significant distance between Wine & Spirits stores,” he said.
The kiosks would be paid for by Simple Brands, which would draw revenue from ads sold to vendors, said Hays. Simple Brands could not be reached for comment.
The PLCB would lease space for the kiosks from supermarkets, and cover costs associated with having state employees stock, monitor and maintain the machines. It has yet to determined how many people would remotely monitor transactions.
Supermarkets wouldn't require a wine license to house the kiosks, or obtain revenue from wine sales, since kiosks are essentially a state-run store.
The tests come as state governments look to alcohol for new revenue.
New York considered a proposal to allow grocers to sell wine in exchange for a licensing fee. A similar plan is under review in New Jersey.
Illinois will soon increase a liquor tax to pay for road repairs, while other states are lifting restrictions on Sunday sales of alcoholic beverages.